Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Work-safety and health programme for schools

Star: PETALING JAYA: Two schools have begun running the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) in School Programme to make schools a safer and healthy places to be in.
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said SM Convent Kajang, Selangor, and SMK Seri Manjung, Perak, had been selected for the pilot project, jointly-organised by Niosh in cooperation with ExxonMobil and TNB Janamanjung Sdn Bhd.
He said the programme's objectives were: ensure safety, health and welfare for teachers and supporting staff and protect students against risks to safety and health.
The third objective was to establish a safe and healthy working environment (office, laboratory, canteen, toilets, hostels and playing fields), which would fall in line with a person's at-work psychology and physiology, he added.
“The OSH in School programme will benefit students who are going to make up the nation's future workforce and contribute towards making safety at work our life culture,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Lee added that the OSH in School programme would be the core Niosh programme for this year.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Helping Hands

Malay Mail: KIOKU isn’t Japanese despite the way it sounds. Instead, it is a homegrown non-governmental organisation committed to serving the needs of disabled persons, particularly those who are wheelchair-bound.
Its name is the Malay acronym for Perkhidmatan Keluarga Interaksi Orang-orang Kurang Upaya, or the Services for the Whole Family and People with Disabilities.
Under the patronage of Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Kioku’s main objective is to build bridges between disabled people from various societies and members of the public.
“We are a fully voluntary service without racial, religious or political bias,” said its president Chris Thasan, who is wheelchair-bound himself. “Our earnest hope and cry is for the public to recognise and support the disabled in their struggles, efforts and determination to continue living an ordinary life, and strive for better quality of life. Please lend us a helping hand to help the disabled community.”
Under the Constitution, a person with disabilities is a full citizen. Said Thasan: “We want to be treated with dignity. Sympathy is not what we are looking for, but the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest like any other citizens.”
One way of achieving its objectives is by organising the Kioku Family Day. “Our role is mainly to give motivation and to raise the spirits of the disabled people,” said Thasan. “We seek to improve the perception of society towards the disabled community as a whole, being disabled persons ourselves.”
Every year, the Kioku Family Day is organised to bring together the disabled people, their family members and members of the public. Said Thasan: “We are looking for a main sponsor to support our Family Day this year which will be held in September,” he said.
“At the same time, we are looking for investors who are willing to help start up small workshops for the disabled people to do tailoring and repairing of television sets.
“We are providing training for the disabled people to help them live as independent people,” he said. “We urge members of the public to look into the transportation problems faced by our disabled friends.”
In July 2004, Kioku started its One-Stop Centre in Taman Sri Sentosa for the rehabilitation of the disabled people. The centre provides advice, counselling and assistance for other technical problems faced by disabled people.
Kioku’s One-Stop Centre is located at Taman Sri Sentosa, Jalan Kelang Lama, Kuala Lumpur. Chris Thasan can be contacted at (016) 360-3527 or (03) 7782-7640.

First oral iron chelator approved

Star: Novartis announced the approval of Deferasirox – the first and only once-daily oral iron chelator – by the US Food and Drug Administration. It has been approved for the treatment of chronic iron overload due to blood transfusions in adults and children age two and older.
Iron overload is a potentially life-threatening and unavoidable consequence of frequent blood transfusions used to treat certain types of rare chronic blood disorders, including thalassemia and sickle cell disease, as well as other rare anaemias and myelodysplastic syndromes.
Signs of iron overload may be detected after transfusion of about 20 units of blood. If left undiagnosed or untreated, the excess iron in the body is likely to lead to damage to the liver, heart and endocrine glands. The body has no inherent mechanism to remove excess iron, so iron chelation is used as an effective treatment for transfusion-related iron overload.
Deferasirox is the only iron chelator administered as a drink (the tablets are dispersed in a glass of orange juice, apple juice or water).
This is much more convenient for patients than the current standard of care, which often requires a subcutaneous infusion lasting eight to 12 hours per night, for five to seven nights a week for as long as the patient continues to receive blood transfusions or has excess iron within the body.
As a result, many patients may have stopped or avoided iron chelation therapy, thus risking the toxic effects of iron overload.
“The oral chelating agent will actually help,” says Prof Dr Zulkifli Ismail, President of the Thalassaemia Association of Malaysia, “making it so patients don’t have to have infusions any more. They don’t have to be stuck with tubes to their tummies eight hours a day. They can stop having needle phobia that they had before.”
Prof Dr Zulkifli adds: “It is long awaited. We have been waiting a long time for a once-daily oral chelator. A once a day oral medication is a great help.”
The approval of the drug is expected to greatly enhance the acceptance of iron chelation therapy, especially for children, and offer a new alternative to continuous infusion therapy.
“The approval by the US FDA is extremely good news for the Malaysian thalassaemia community. What we have been hoping for and waiting for has finally come to fruition, i.e. an effective oral chelator which will replace the burden of needles and daily infusions,” says Prof Chan Lee Lee.
She continues: “All the problems with patient refusal and poor compliance will dramatically change. As doctors we look forward to seeing happy thalassaemia patients who experience effective iron chelation leading to improved lifestyles and extended life spans.
“The drug should also prove to be useful for other patients who receive regular blood transfusions like patients with myelodysplastic syndromes.
“We hope that in the near future, many of our patients will be able to benefit from this new oral iron chelator.”
Designated an orphan drug in the US, Switzerland, Australia and the EU, Deferasirox has also been granted a priority review in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Additional regulatory submissions have been made around the world.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

JE: Health Inspectors On House-to-House Check

TANAH MERAH, Jan 29 (Bernama) -- The Tanah Merah Health Office has launched a house-to-house operation to find out whether there are others who have contracted Japanese Encephalitis (JE) after a woman was confirmed to have been infected with the disease last Tuesday.
District Health Officer Dr Mohd Nordin Safiin said the operation began last Friday within a two-kilometre radius of the woman's house, here.
At the same time, about 100 health officers including from other districts in Kelantan, had been deployed for a seek and destroy campaign on breeding grounds of culex tritaeniorhynchus mosquito - JE virus carrier, he told Bernama.
"We also get the cooperation of the Veterinary Services Department and Tanah Merah District Office. Besides, we also carry out fogging," he said.
Fliers on JE were also distributed to the people, he said.
So far, only Norhayati Awang, 27, was confirmed to have contracted the disease. Her condition was reported to be serious. The Health Ministry is waiting for the test result of two other persons who have shown symptoms of JE infection.

Health Minister : No result on blood test of woman suspected with JE

The Star KUALA LUMPUR: There is no confirmed result of blood test for a woman suspected with Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in Kelantan, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said here.
Speaking to reporters at the MCA Chinese New Year open house, he said the ministry was monitoring the situation.
Chua was commenting on press reports that a woman in Tanah Merah, Kelantan has been confirmed to have been infected with JE while two other cases were also being investigated.
Kelantan Health director, Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Maher said Saturday the woman, Norhayati Awang, was now being treated at the High Dependency Ward at Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II and her condition is reported to be quite serious.
The JE virus is spread by the culex tritaeniorhynchus mosquito.
Among the early symptoms of the JE infection are fever, headache, tiredness, nausea and vomitting for several days.

Protecting young victims of sex abuse

NST: Tracey (not her real name) was only 14 but she was labelled a slut in her small town of 5,000 people.
She was a friendly and average-looking girl who could easily be forgotten or even ignored.
But news of her first pregnancy flew fast around the town and the people reacted. They shunned her.
She stopped going to school when her pregnancy became obvious. Two more pregnancies followed, and the town was swirling with rumours about her "wild" life. They never talked to her but always talked about her.
In the first two pregnancies, no hospital staff enquired about how she became pregnant at such a young age. Nor did they ask who the father was.
They just assumed he was someone she slept with during her "wild nights". Tracey also never gave any explanations.
It was during her third pregnancy, when she was 16, that the truth of her pregnancies became known.
A new doctor at the hospital who took her case, noticed that she had been pregnant two times before. He asked her who the baby’s father was.
"The father is my father," she answered. It was later learnt that Tracey’s father raped her whenever he fancied.
It is still unclear if her siblings knew what happened to their sister or if they were victims themselves. Nothing is known about her mother.
The hospital reported the case to the Social Welfare Department. Her father was detained.
Tracey, who is now in her 20s, never knew the gender of her babies. They were taken away for adoption.
Her case was highlighted by the Protect and Save the Children Association of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, an organisation that counsels sexually-abused children and creates public awareness on such abuse.
Aggy Hooi, a counsellor with the organisation, said most of the cases reported showed that the victims were sexually abused by someone they knew.
"It could be their father, uncle, brother, baby-sitter, bus driver or neighbour," she said.
The victims are usually stigmatised and blamed by the culprits.
"The victims are told they deserve to be raped because they are not good," said Hooi.
The culprits also use material or emotional rewards to lure children to have sex with them.
"They will say to the child, ‘I love you, you are special’ to draw the children closer to them. Or they are given gifts.
"The child grows up believing that if she wants love and attention, she just needs to have sex," said Hooi.
Police statistics showed two thirds of the 1,760 rape cases reported in 2004 involved children.

Girl, 13, may have died of JE

NST: Japanese Encephalitis is rearing its ugly head again. A 13-year-old girl is dead, believed to be a victim of the deadly disease. Two others are battling for their lives.
Tests on one of those warded, Norhayati Awang, 27, has conclusively shown that she has contracted JE.
While hoping the three cases detected in separate villages here are isolated ones, health authorities are not taking chances and have sent a team of about 50 to contain its spread.
Dr Marzukhi Md Isa, the Health Ministry’s deputy director of disease control (vector-borne diseases), said they might cordon off the area if more people showed JE symptoms.
JE, transmitted by the culex mosquito, is one of several mosquito-borne virus that can affect the central nervous system and cause severe complications and death.
Last year, there were 32 reported JE cases, with seven deaths. In 2004, the number of cases were the same but there were three deaths.
In 1999, another strain of the JE — the Nipah virus — claimed more than 100 lives and forced villagers in Bukit Pelandok, Negri Sembilan, to evacuate, turning the area into a ghost town.
More than 600,000 pigs were culled to stop the spread of the disease.
Health officials confirmed that Siti Mardiana Mohd Ramli died on Thursday morning, two days after being admitted to Tanah Merah Hospital.
She was suffering from high fever, headache and discomfort, the symptoms of JE.
Her blood sample has been sent to the Institute of Medical Research for testing.
"We hope to get the results within a day or two," said Dr Marzukhi.
He confirmed tests showed that Norhayati, who has been warded at Kota Baru Hospital, had contracted JE. She is battling for her life.
Norhayati, an epileptic from Jalan Klinik here, was first admitted to Tanah Merah Hospital on Tuesday with symptoms of fever, headache and bodily discomfort.
She was transferred to Kota Baru Hospital when her condition worsened.
Hasnira Hussien, 13, from Kampung Bukit Pauh, was admitted to Tanah Merah Hospital on Thursday and later transferred to Kota Baru Hospital. Her condition is also critical.
Local health authorities are baffled that the JE has surfaced in Kelantan as there are no pig farms in the State.
Previous outbreaks, in Perak and Negri Sembilan, were mainly linked to pigs reared in farms.
After analysing the three cases and interviewing the victims, medical workers here are working on the theory that the disease could have spread from wild boars.
There have been many sightings of wild boars at the back of the victims’ homes, which are surrounded by thick jungle.
The 50 Health Department workers began a large-scale operation today in the Jalan Klinik area in Tanah Merah town, Kampung Air Kerala and Kampung Bukit Pauh.
They spent hours visiting houses on a fact-finding mission and to check on the surroundings.
Villagers were told to clean their surroundings and clear stagnant waterways, ponds and puddles, especially those with keladi (yam) growing in them.
"Some of these villagers have the tendency to allow the keladi plant to grow in these ponds. This is dangerous as culex mosquitoes breed underneath this plant," said an official.
"The teams are also doing a mosquito survey to check if there are many culex mosquitoes in the area," the official said.
Dr Marzukhi said the initial JE symptoms were a flu-like illness with fever, chills, tiredness, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Confusion and agitation can also occur.
The illness can progress to a serious infection of the brain (encephalitis) and can be fatal in 30 per cent of cases.
Among the survivors, another 30 per cent will have serous brain damage and paralysis.
He said symptoms usually appeared six to eight days after being infected by the culex mosquito.
At Siti Mardiana’s home in Kampung Air Kerala, an air of sadness lingered as her family tried to cope with their loss.
Her father, Mohd Ramli Mohd Zaid, 34, said Siti Mardiana, the eldest of six children, had high fever for days but kept it from the family until she vomited in school on Monday.
"It was only after her teacher sent her home that I knew about it," said Ramli.

Sick shots in hospitals

Star: Visitors will no longer be able to use mobile phones in hospital wards following cases of the "sick" preying on the sick.
The ban comes in the wake of voyeurs snapping shots of patients in various state of undress or answering the call of nature in bed.
Patients who undergo medical procedures that require removal of clothing have also been photographed.
The voyeurs usually try to cover their actions by pretending to speak on their phones but Datuk Dr Ismail Merican, director-general of Health, is wise to their tricks.
"I am directing all hospital directors to immediately ban the use of mobile phones in hospital wards," he said.
Dr Ismail, who has personally seen visitors snapping shots of patients in their private moments, said: "We have to protect the rights of patients."
He said senior ward staff would monitor the situation and advise visitors to use their mobile phones outside wards.
He said doctors and hospital staff should also not use mobile phones in the intensive care unit, coronary care units and other areas where its usage could affect the equipment.
On security in hospitals, he said CCTVs may be useful but it gave people a false sense of security.
"If somebody walked into a ward and told the sister-in-charge that a patient needed to be taken for an ultrasound, the sister should check whether that person is a member of the hospital staff who recommended the procedure.
"If the sister does not check, the patient could be a victim of a crime."
This screening extends to medical students and health personnel going into the wards.
"We have many students and allied health personnel walking in and out of hospitals.
"It’s important that they identify themselves to the sister-in-charge of wards before seeing patients."
Dr Ismail said hospital directors should carry out surprise checks to ensure that staff observed security requirements.
He also advised people not to wear jewellery when seeking treatment in hospitals.
This follows cases of patients losing jewellery in hospitals.

Anti-firecracker squads set for action

Star: Light a firecracker and you may just find a group of policemen waiting to arrest you, warned state police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Christopher Wan.
“Anti-firecracker squads have been formed in all the police stations statewide this Chinese New Year to catch revellers beating the government ban on such items.
“These squads will patrol their areas to ensure that the ban is not defied. Gurney Drive and the Esplanade, which are revellers’ favourite spots, will be patrolled nightly.
“I have also directed the OCPDs to ensure that the banned items are not sold by the roadside or at markets. Those caught selling are also liable to be charged.
“We will not tolerate such blatant disregard of the law. More than 20 people were arrested and charged in the courts last year,” he said when met at his office yesterday.
DCP Wan said all fireworks, except for the happy boom, magic pop and the pop pop types, are banned, adding that the public can call the police hotline (04-2691999) if the noise gets to be too much.
Administrator Goh Su Yen, 33, said for the past few years, she has been having sleepless nights caused by the din from firecrackers which would sometimes last up to 2am in her neighbourhood.
“I welcome the police’s crackdown against those selling and playing with such items. It is good that the police have formed these anti-firecracker squads,” she said.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Touched by the nursing ‘angels’

Malay Mail In time of need, compassion can be a rare commodity.
But this was not the case with the staff of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM) who went beyond the call of duty to help the wife of a Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) security guard who was injured in a sub-station explosion on Jan 22.
Wan Affendi Wan Ali, 25, suffered 50 per cent burns when the sub-station exploded in Bukit Changgang.
His wife, Fauziah Arbangi, 25, said nurses and doctors from the burns unit passed the hat around to help her. Fauziah, who has been sleeping at the burns unit the past five nights, said the staff would chip in daily to buy her breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“The nurses also brought me some change of clothes from their homes. I want to go home and see my kids but I don’t have the money for transportation,” said the homemaker as she fought back tears.
She said her parents were taking care of her two children, aged three and five, at their family home in Banting.
Fauziah is also three months pregnant.
Her spirits were lifted when she received a RM2,000 donation from the American International Assurance (AIA) yesterday.
Its vice-president of corporate communications department, Mala Patmarajah, told The Malay Mail that the donation was for the family’s immediate expenses.

NKF’s health screening for RM2

Malay Mail: Early screening for kidney diseases saves lives.
The National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia (NKF) urges Malaysians to take precautions against kidney disease by registering for its health screening programme.
The nationwide health screening programme will begin on Feb 19.
It will be held on every first and third Sunday of the month in NKF’s 19 dialysis centres around the country.
Screening costs RM2 and is from 8am to noon.
Hospital Kuala Lumpur (KLH) consultant nephrologist and NKF nephrology department head Dr Zaki Morad Mohd Zaher said: “Our focus is on prevention rather than cure.
“Many patients come to us when they have reached the critical phase, that is kidney failure.
“They have to undergo kidney transplants, or haemodialysis treatment 13 times a month and four hours per session, in order to survive.”
He said the screening includes urine, blood pressure and glucose level tests.
Those who are diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes are strongly advised to go for screening as they risk developing kidney ailments.
He said statistics have shown that eight per cent of Malaysians have been diagnosed with diabetes, and 30 per cent of adult Malaysians have high blood pressure.
Senior citizens aged 60 and above form the bulk of kidney patients.
He said 100 in a million Malaysians suffer from terminal kidney failure every year, and this means, an additional 2,500 people require haemodialysis treatment.
NKF board of managers chairman Dr S. S. Gill said: “If signs of kidney disease are detected, NKF will recommend that the patient undergo medical check-ups for further treatment.
“Early detection saves lives.”
The NKF public education unit organised a seminar in November last year to acquaint its staff nurses at the 19 centres with proper procedures in caring for kidney patients.
NKF chief executive officer Goh Seng Chuan said they also launched a nephrology affiliation scheme two years ago, in which 11 nephrologists from Government hospitals assisted the dialysis centres.
There are 54 nephrologists in Malaysia.
Goh said: “They review the condition of kidney patients once in six weeks.”
From Feb 1, NKF will increase subsidies to kidney patients by RM10. This means, dialysis treatment will be reduced from RM60 to RM50.
Goh was speaking at the NKF secretariat in here.
Also present was NKF second vice chairman Dr Tan Chwee Choon.
Goh said NKF will be opening two more dialysis centres next month in Kota Baru, Kelantan and Jalan Meru, Klang.
For further details, call 03-70549048 or logon to www.nkf.org.my

Friday, January 27, 2006

Kidney disease screening for RM2

NST: For a mere RM2, you can find out if you have symptoms of kidney disease.
The National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia (NKF) is offering health screening services at its 19 dialysis centres from Feb 19.
The public can have the tests done on the first and third Sunday. In the east coast States, it will be done every alternate Friday, from 8am to noon.
NKF board of managers chairman Dr S.S. Gill said today: "It is advisable to do a health screening as many people are unaware that their kidneys are damaged until they have a medical examination."
There are over 12,000 people on dialysis at 320 haemodialysis centres nationwide.
According to Dr Gill, each year, an additional 2,500 Malaysians require haemodialysis treatment or face death unless they undergo a kidney transplant.
NKF vice-chairman Datuk Dr Zaki Morad Zaher, who is also the Health Ministry’s consultant nephrologist, said diabetes mellitus and hypertension were now the leading causes of kidney failure in the country.
"One-third of diabetics will develop kidney disease," he said at the launch of the health-screening campaign at NKF headquarters.
He said kidney stones and urinary tract infections could also lead to kidney failure. Another factor is family history.
"The number of Malaysians suffering from end-stage renal failure increased more than 56-fold between 1980 and now — from 43 in 1980 to 12,000," he added.

Penang hospitals cash in

Star: PENANG: Private hospitals here are fast tapping into the growing multi-million ringgit health tourism that is bringing in hordes of foreigners, especially from Medan, to the island’s shores.
Some 10,000 foreign patients checked into hospitals in the state and spent an estimated RM100mil last year.
Penang received 70% of the RM150mil generated from health tourism nationwide in 2004, followed by Malacca, which received 20%, and other states, according to the Penang Health Group.
Penang Health Group, set up early last year to coordinate promotional efforts to woo foreign patients to the state, comprises seven private hospitals.
The flip side of the boom in business is that the agents bringing in foreign patients are said to be calling the shots.
These agents, said industry officials, were so powerful they could set the number of patients for a particular hospital.
It was no longer important whether a doctor was very good or a hospital had the best equipment, he said.
Although it is no secret that hospitals pay commissions to agents, most interviewed denied any links with the agents to get business.
Penang Health Group chairman Dr Chan Kok Ewe, who is also the chief executive officer of a hospital on the island, said health tourism was emerging as a big industry in the state but it was being promoted in a healthy manner.
“We do have agents arranging for foreigners to go to our hospitals but it has always been a healthy arrangement,” he said, adding that health tourism revenue in Penang went up by 20% last year.
Foreign patients, mostly from Medan, come here for various kinds of operations, including treatment for heart ailments and cancer.
Dr Chan said Singapore used to be popular with Indonesian patients but they started coming to Penang as the costs were cheaper and the quality of medical service was just as good.
Malaysian Association of Private Hospitals vice-president Datuk Teddric J. Morr, who is also president of a well known hospital here, said there have been no complaints against the agents so far.
“It will be a surprise to me if agents call the shots. As far as I know, we are not into buying patients.
“It has always been healthy competition as far as health tourism is concerned.”
Khor Thean Heng, the marketing director of a hospital here said it did not rely on agents for foreign patients.
The hospital handled about 15,000 patients last year, of whom about 30% were foreigners, he added.
An official of another hospital which handles about 15,000 outpatients yearly, said 15% were foreigners.
Promotion was done through medical talks and by word of mouth only, said the official.
State Tourism Development and Environment committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said Penang Health Group, which operates independently, was started by the State Tourism Council and its members promoted the state as a whole and refrained from promoting a particular hospital.
Although there has been no complaint against the agents, the authorities are monitoring the situation, he added.
A Malaysia Airlines official said that health tourism in the state was set to grow further with more daily direct flights from Medan to Penang.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

DPM Wants Health Ministry To Manage Medical Aid Fund

PUTRAJAYA, 26 Jan (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wants the Health Ministry to continue to manage the Medical Aid Fund (MAF).
Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek said this was expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister after listening to the explanation by the ministry on the alleged bureaucratic red-tapes which made it difficult for applicants to benefit from the fund.
Dr Chua said he met Najib on Jan 20 to clarify the matter.
"The Deputy Prime Minister accepted our explanation and he was satisfied with the procedures that were carried out. And he said that the Health Ministry, which has been entrusted to manage the fund, will continue to do the job," he told Bernama.
Dr Chua said the ministry had taken steps to reduce what were regarded by some quarters as bureaucratic red-tapes to the extent that it had been able to approve applications for assistance under the fund within 10 to 14 days, as was the case involving 416 patients who applied for it last year.
"But there were cases which we cannot approve and these were the ones which had been made the basis for the complaints lodged," he added.
Among the reasons for the applications not being approved, he said, was due to incomplete application forms that were submitted.
Dr Chua said the setting up of the fund reflected the government's concern for the poor and should not be politicised for any ulterior motives or agenda.
The controversy over MAF cropped-up following complaints by several individuals of difficulties in getting assistance from the fund so much so that some patients died.
Dr Chua said 416 patients received aid totalling RM6.6 million under the MAF last year.
He said the fund had been allocated RM100 million and that it had so far received RM25 million.
He also said there were certain conditions which applicants had to fulfil before their applications could be approved.
Among the conditions are that the applicant must be a Malaysian, from poor background which has to be verified by the Medical Social Workers or the Welfare Department, patients refered by government hospitals and the handicapped who are registered with the Welfare Department.
The application form could be obtained at all government hospitals, the Welfare Department and also at the MAF Secretariat at the Finance Ministry, Putrajaya.

Health Minister sets the record straight: RM15,000 was set aside for op

Malay Mail: Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek is puzzled why the Ministry’s approval to subsidise the cost of the heart surgery of a taxi driver’s son was not conveyed to the cabbie.
The Ministry’s Finance Division had approved RM15,000 for the cost of the heart operation for S. Maniam’s 18-month-old son on Jan 19.
The operation, costing RM18,000, is scheduled to take place on March 28 at Institut Jantung Negara (IJN).
The Maniam family has to top up the remaining RM3,000 for the operation, as far as the Ministry is concerned.
Asked why news of the approval was not conveyed to the patient’s family, Dr Chua said he did not know.
"That one (the approval to subsidise the operation’s costs), I don’t know. But the money is there," said Dr Chua yesterday.
He was responding to a front-page story in The Malay Mail yesterday that Maniam was denied aid by the Ministry in Putrajaya when he approached them on Jan 18.
Maniam said the officer who attended to him said he should seek help from other sources as the Ministry’s fund was meant only for "poor people".
Maniam went to the Ministry after reading in Malay and Tamil dailies that the Ministry’s health fund has some RM18 million meant for critical illnesses still unutilised.
The Puchong resident was quoted as saying: "While the officer concurred with what the Minister said, he insisted that I look for help from other sources."
However, the officer did not tell him where to seek help but maintained he was at the wrong place.
Maniam told the officer that he had spent more than RM110 at Putrajaya Hospital and about RM400 at IJN for his son’s X-rays and check-ups.
The officer rudely questioned his plan to take his son to IJN instead of a Government hospital.
Maniam explained that it was the choice of the doctors at Putrajaya Hospital.
Meanwhile, Dr Chua said the problem of insufficient funds to meet the medical bill should be resolved within the hospital itself.
"(Such matters should) always start from where the (patients) came from. Patients should always go back to hospitals. There, social workers, officers and staff are available and patients should ask them for help instead.
"Hospitals should not send patients running around in circles," he said.
He also said the Ministry is not the place for patients to seek financial aid, as it will not know the nature of the case.
Dr Chua said there could have been a "breakdown in communication" as there were not many non-Malays who were conversant in Bahasa Malaysia.
"You people should get both sides of the story. You just listened to one side of the story which is not true," he said.
When contacted, Maniam reiterated that during his visit to IJN on Jan 16, the staff did not inform him that his son’s operation was going to be subsidised.
"They did not tell me that I will receive help, except to ask for my Employees Provident Fund’s savings statement," he said.
The Ministry has allocated RM205 million for medical treatment for Government staff, Government retirees and to subsidise the expenses of poor patients at IJN.

Suit by 30 against UM struck out

NST: The High Court today struck out a suit against Universiti Malaya filed by 30 medical students from unscheduled universities.
The decision was made in chambers by judge Datuk Mohd Hishammuddin Mohd Yunus, who also ordered costs.
The graduates, led by Dr V. Vijaya Kumar, had named the Malaysian Medical Council, the Health Minister, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia as defendants.
On Dec 30, senior assistant registrar Raja Noor Adilla Raja Mahyaldi struck out the graduates suit against USM.
The graduates claimed they had been denied their constitutional right to practise medicine in Malaysia, and had been wrongfully compelled to sit an exam at the university before being allowed to practice.
They alleged the university practised double standards in assessing them and utilised examination-marking criteria prejudicial to them.
The graduates sought declarations that:
• they be allowed to practise as doctors;
• the examination results announced by UM, UKM and USM were unjust; and,
• UM, USM and UKM should award them certificates and damages.
Universiti Malaya, represented by counsels Su Tiang Joo and Teh Eng Lay, filed a statement of defence saying the court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the plaintiff’s claim and was not the proper forum to determine the merits of the graduates.

Makna loans in the offing

NST: Families of cancer patients will soon be able to apply to the National Cancer Council (Makna) for loans to start small businesses.
The council is working with several organisations to provide interest-free loans of at least RM2,000 for families who have lost incomes when a member is afflicted by cancer.
Makna marketing manager Zawahir Abdullah said the facility would be launched this year.
"This is our latest project and we are still in talks with other organisations to provide such loans.
"We want to help these families generate a regular income by setting up a business," he said at the National Library today during a Makna talk on cancer.
Makna’s outreach programme facilitator Habiba Abd Rahman, a former nursing trainer with the Health Ministry, said cancer, currently the nation’s second killer disease, could affect one in four people in the next four years.
Habiba said the situation could worsen because of increasingly stressful lifestyles.
Makna was set up in 1993 as a non-profit organisation funded by public donations.

Lecturers face new hurdle to promotion

Star: PUTRAJAYA: University lecturers hoping to be promoted will now have to clear an extra hurdle.
Besides having to be confirmed in their posts and pass the Efficiency Level Assessment test, they now have to achieve a “standard of academic excellence” fixed by the university’s board of directors.
This requirement is effective Jan 1.
According to a circular issued by the Public Services Department, both the Higher Education Ministry and the universities will work together to set the criteria for the standard.
Universiti Malaya Academic Staff Association secretary Rosli Omar welcomed the move.
“There has been dissatisfaction among academicians in previous promotion exercises where there were no clear guidelines on the requirement for promotion,” he said.
Rosli however said that the association would continue to call for the Efficiency Level Assessment to be removed as one of the basis for promotion.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Review haemodialysis allocation, Socso told

NST: Socso has been asked to review benefits for haemodialysis treatment of its members, as the current RM500 allocation is insufficient, said Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn.
He said Socso beneficiaries suffering renal failure would continue to get free haemodialysis treatment, with Socso paying the RM500 directly to dialysis centres to help cover equipment costs, as well as patients’ out-of-pocket expenses such as transportation costs.
The allocation does not include the fixed RM110 rate for haemodialysis treatment, which is also borne by Socso.
Fong said he had asked Socso to consider increasing the RM500 allocation as it may not be enough to cover the additional costs incurred by treatment centres and patients.
There are 157 haemodialysis centres nationwide affiliated with Socso. To date, 2,600 Socso members have benefited from the treatment scheme.
Fong today handed over 23 haemodialysis machines worth RM876,000 to 12 centres to be deployed nationwide. He also gave out compensation amounting to more than RM1 million to 40 benefactors under various Socso schemes.
Socso has also stepped up enforcement to ensure that employers register their workers.
Until last year, 576,244 employers were registered with Socso, of whom 348,000 were active contributors.
Fong said Socso collected an average of RM1.5 billion a year and had an accumulated amount of RM13 billion, with 4.8 million active employees subscribed to the scheme.

Residents may face malaria risk

Star: KUANTAN: With extensive clearing going on in parts of Bukit Pelindung over recent months, residents in this posh area may face the threat of a malaria outbreak.
The hill-clearing has created an environment conducive to the reproduction of the mosquito, A. maculatus, a malaria vector that breeds in open spaces on higher ground where there is direct sunlight and clear running water.
Resident Datuk Dr Yeow Seng Huat said the influx of foreign workers due to large housing projects in the area would increase the risk of such an outbreak and urged the authorities to take the necessary preventive measures.
“It's a known fact that once all the requirements are met, nothing can really stop the disease from rearing its ugly head,” said the medical practitioner and former senator.
A senior Health Department staff member confirmed that hilly areas that had been cleared were the ideal breeding grounds for the mosquito.
“Foreign workers may very well be carriers of the disease,” he said, adding that the department might have inadvertently overlooked the possibility of an outbreak of malaria in urban areas.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the nearby Beserah area was a “malarial area”.
State deputy health director Dr Ahmad Nordin Mohd Jais, however, maintained that malaria cases had only been reported in interior areas in the state such as Lipis.
He said based on the fact that no reports of cases had been referred to the department from Kuantan, it was unlikely that an outbreak would occur.

More M'sians Dying Of A.T. Than Cancer, Says Cardiologist

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 (Bernama) -- More Malaysians are dying from atherothrombotic (A.T.) events than cancer.
This alarming trend is expected to worsen in the years to come, especially since many Malaysians are not aware that atherothombosis, one of the world's worst killer disease, is the common underlying cause of coronary artery disease which leads to heart attacks, strokes and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Atherothrombosis Advisory Board Malaysia (AAB) chairperson, Datuk Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahari said atherothrombosis was too dangerous to ignore as the mortality rate among 50,000 patients admitted to government hospitals for the diseases in 2004 was nine percent or over 4,000 fatalities.
In comparison, the mortality rate of cancer patients admitted in government hospitals was only seven percent, she said.
"The unfortunate thing is that many of these deaths could have been avoided," said Dr Robaayah during her presentation at the 'Looking A.T. Tomorrow' campaign supported by global pharmaceutical giant Sanofil-aventis, here Tuesday.
Sanofil-aventis initiated a survey in Asia, involving about 800 respondents, including 103 Malaysians to help improve education and awareness among Asia's risk-groups, and its younger generation who would have to come to grips with the disease in the future.
Revealing the findings of the survey, Dr Robaayah said about 70 percent of Asians, including Malaysians have never heard of atherothrombosis, even if they have suffered a stroke or a heart attack.
"What this indicates is the lack of an active dialogue between patients and physicians in discussing the connection between the different vascular diseases and their prevention. This number is startling because it means that the general public does not know about atherothrombosis, its symptoms and how it affects the different parts of the body.
"There are many things an average Malaysian can do to reduce the risk of developing an atherothrombotic event like a heart attack, stroke or PAD," added Dr Robayaan, who is also the Senior Consultant Cardiologist and Head of Cardialogy at the National Hearth Institute (IJN).
When a person develops atherothrombosis, the arteries have become dangerously clogged and are unable to deliver sufficient blood to maintain normal bodily function, thus leading to heart attacks, PAD, and/or strokes. The arteries of someone suffering from atherothrombosis look like they have an extended traffic jam which severely affects smooth blood flow.
Among the risk factors that could lead to atherothrombosis are obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Lifestyle factors like of exercise and smoking also contribute to increased risk.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

RM600,000 Worth Of Drugs Containing Poisons Seized

MELAKA, Jan 23 (Bernama) -- Enforcement officers seized RM600,000 worth of drugs suspected to contain poisons and unregistered with the Ministry of Health in raids over the last three days in the state.
Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Services Dr Ahmad Mahmud said 500 types of drugs were seized at 20 premises, such as Chinese medicine shops, a coffee mill and "pasar malam" (night market) stalls.
The products confiscated included those that were imported without a permit from Indonesia, Thailand and China, he told reporters here.
Dr Ahmad said the three-day operation involved 50 enforcement officers as well as the police.
At a coffee mill in Batu Berendam, he said, the officers found that a poison containing Sildenafil -- a drug to correct erectile dysfunction -- was added to the coffee powder.
"Sildenafil is only given under a doctor's prescription and can have adverse consequences for heart and diabetic patients," he said.

Coffee to cure ED seized

NST: Cappucino that purportedly cures erectile dysfunction was among 500 types of unregistered traditional medicine seized by the Health Ministry here over the weekend.
The coffee contains a scheduled poison called sildenafil which produces the same effect as Viagra.
"It is priced at RM24 for a box of two sachets and is sold by direct sales agents here," said Pharmaceutical Services deputy director Dr Ahmad Mahmud.
Some 700 boxes of the product, worth about RM16,800, were seized.
The total worth of the seized medicine, mostly imported from Indonesia, Thailand and China, was RM600,000.
"The cappucino has been traced to a factory that has been in operation for over a year, in Batu Berendam," Dr Ahmad said.
He said the product was available in most parts of the country and it was first seized during a raid in Butterworth last September.
He said the owner of the factory, a local in his 40s, would be charged once investigations were completed.
He said the haul resulted from random checks by 50 ministry enforcement officers of shops in Ayer Keroh and Bukit Baru.
Over the weekend, the team combed through 20 business premises, including traditional Chinese medicine shops, coffee factories and night markets.
Nineteen other businessmen and dealers are also expected to be charged under the Sales of Goods Act 1952.
If convicted, individuals could be fined up to RM25,000 or jailed up to three years, while for companies, the maximum fine is RM50,000.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Medical reports go online

NST: The Transport Ministry will soon announce a new online system to curb the forging of medical reports by lorry drivers.
It is understood the ministry and developers of the system are at the last stages of discussions.
The system will link the Road Transport Department with clinics throughout the country which will send the drivers’ medical reports directly to the RTD.
"A fee will be charged, and the Government will announce the fee structure and type of system soon," said RTD director-general Datuk Emran Kadir.
Emran said the new system would be foolproof and would end the forging of medical reports by touts that had been going on for years.
Goods driving licence holders are required to undergo a medical check-up every year. These check-ups are done at private clinics.
However, a short cut is available in the form of touts, who can "certify" patients for a fee.
While the system is expected to standardise the medical certification process, it is being met with a lukewarm response from medical practitioners.
Primary Care Doctors Organisation Malaysia president Dr Molly Cheah said doctors had been excluded from the development process.
"The Science and Technology Ministry had told us to develop our online system in 2001.
"There were 50 doctors involved and we were given RM1 million to develop the software," she said.
After a year of research, it came up with a system which it called the Primary Care system, which can send medical details of the drivers directly to the RTD. She said doctors would meet Emran to discuss the type of system the department would implement.
Meanwhile, MP for Jerai Badruddin Amiruldin said the new system should not put a strain on lorry drivers, who are mostly from the lower-income group, and the fee should be affordable.
He hoped the Government would introduce a fee structure that these people could afford.

Shying away due to stigma

NST: Despite ready access to treatment and subsidised costs, most people with HIV/AIDS are keeping away from hospitals.
One reason is that they are not aware that treatment can help improve their lives.
"The other reason is the fear of coming forward for help," said Dr Christopher Lee, Kuala Lumpur Hospital’s senior specialist and consultant for infectious diseases, in an interview.
"People are afraid of the stigma."
He said of the 65,000 known HIV-positive people in the country, only a small number had sought treatment.
In 2003, the National HIV/AIDS Treatment Registry (NHATR) showed that 1,785 HIV-positive people were undergoing highly active anti-retroviral therapy in government hospitals.
Dr Lee said they represented between 80 and 90 per cent of all those on such treatment. The rest were being treated in private hospitals.
When the registry is updated in March, Dr Lee expects the number to rise to some 2,500 patients undergoing treatment.
Dr Lee said it was not compulsory for HIV/AIDS sufferers to report to the registry, but drug sales indicated that less than five per cent of the 65,000 victims were under treatment.
He said cost used to be a major factor but this was no longer the case. Treatment per month could cost as little as RM60 for a single drug, while a cocktail of drugs would come to RM220 a month.
Before the introduction of government subsidies, the cost was about RM2,200 a month.
Some groups are also given free treatment, including mothers who tested positive after childbirth.
For other patients, the Government provides two types of drugs free and the patient pays for the third.
There are 12 types of drugs available for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, including six generic drugs from India.
"New drugs would give doctors more options in the combination of drugs given to patients, in case one drug fails," Dr Lee said.
He said many companies did not sell HIV/AIDS treatment drugs in Malaysia because it was not profitable to do so.
"This is not a problem in Malaysia alone, it is a regional problem, affecting Cambodia and Thailand as well."
He, however, stressed that the available drugs were "good enough".
NHATR clinical registry manager Joselyn Pang said there had been an increase in the number of HIV/AIDS patients seeking treatment at government hospitals, especially in Kota Baru, Penang, Ipoh and Johor Baru.
"There certainly is improvement. More people are getting treatment, but not enough. Never enough," she said.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Checklist for Medicine and the Sciences

Star Education:
With only 600 physiotherapists in the country and people becoming more health-conscious, there is a growing demand for those who specialise in this area.
More and more people are turning to physiotherapists for treatment, said physiotherapist Marc Daniel.
Daniel was speaking on the Allied Health Sciences during the Star Education 2006 Fair, held at the KL Convention Centre recently.
“People who exercise often tend to sprain something, and this is when the physiotherapist comes in.
“In the past, my biggest competitors were the bomohs and sinsehs. Now, the trend is changing, as more people know what a physiotherapist does,” he said.
Attempting to attract males to this female-dominated profession, Daniel added: “The niche market in physiotherapy is in sports medicine, and guys are generally preferred.”

Another profession with excellent career prospects is psychology.
Help University College director for the Centre of Psychology Dr Goh Chee Leong said: “Our graduates have had a 100% employment rate for the past eight years.”
According to him, the three main areas a psychology graduate has an advantage in are: their understanding of people, interpersonal skills and market research involving people.
“No one knows people like you do,” he said.
Dr Goh also advised prospective students to ask themselves if they are interested in understanding and working with people.
He also dispelled the misconception that psychology is about “crazy” people.
“Actually, 90% or more of psychology is concerned with normal people,” he said.
One new area Dr Goh highlighted was artificial intelligence research.
“If you are interested in computer science and psychology, you can look into this area.”

Speaker Dr Suresh Nair touched on a more traditional profession – dentistry.
“My profession is about relief of pain, improving aesthetics and healing disease,” he said.
While treating dental disease is still the core business, improving aesthetics is becoming increasingly important in dentistry.
“It’s about helping to increase the patient’s confidence and self-image. We also do work on accident victims.”
While dentists enjoy more regular hours than doctors and are guaranteed a relatively stable income even during economic difficulties, a dental practice is one of the most expensive businesses to run.
“Dentists will face a tough time in the first few years. Just consider that one dental chair is equivalent to the price of a Toyota Camry (about RM150,000),” said Dr Suresh.

Pharmacist Ang Khoon Lim was quite clear on his objective for giving the talk.
“I came here with one mission – to increase the number of pharmacists in Malaysia.”
As with the other allied health professions, Malaysia faces a shortage of pharmacists.
This led the government to implement a four-year compulsory service last year for pharmacy graduates.
“Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, Malaysia is going to switch from a doctor-focused to patient-focused system. As a front-liner in the healthcare system, we pharmacists will face the positive effects of this shift,” Ang said.
With people taking more responsibility for their own health, pharmacists will be playing more central roles, advising the public on the type of medication and supplements suitable for them.
He also advised students to ensure that the colleges they choose are recognised by the government.

Preparing for medicine
“No matter what we say, there are still many people who want to do medicine. I hope they are doing it for the right reasons,” said the Russian Federation’s honorary consul Teoh Seng Lee, after the panel session on Medicine.
With over 2,000 people packing two adjacent halls, it was obvious that the hardships of the profession have not daunted students or their parents.
Consultant cardiologist Dr Ong Hean Teik warned: “The career of a practising doctor only begins upon completion of postgraduate training.”
As for status and money, Dr Ong said: “The consultant is the peak of the medical pyramid, but the bottom of the healthcare system. And in terms of money, somewhere in the middle.”
He advised students to only go into medicine if they want “the chance to challenge something unknown (disease) and to help others”.
Malaysian Medical Association Wilayah branch chairman Dr Kuljit Singh told students that besides requiring a CGPA of more than 3.5, most universities also look for character.
He added: “There are close to 30 over exams (in medical school), of which you must pass every single one. After all, you can’t say letting one patient die is okay.”
But his most important message was: “Please make sure that the college is recognised by the government. Find this out personally from the Health Ministry.”
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Faculty dean Prof Dr Lokman Saim advised students on what to look for when choosing a medical school.
“Check the number of beds in the teaching hospital and the number of patients they have in a year. This is to ensure that you have enough patients to work with and learn from,” he said.
Students should also ensure that the syllabus contains elements of problem-based learning, community-based learning and early clinical experience.
“I encourage my students to go overseas during their semester break, and join clubs and sports,” said Prof Lokman, who stressed that medical school is not all about exams.
Teoh and Melaka Manipal Medical College lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Satisha Nayak spoke on studying medicine in Russia and India respectively.
Teoh warned students and parents to be wary of unauthorised and bogus agents.
“Always ask the agent for his/her certificate of authorisation from the university. If in doubt, call the Russian Consulate,” he said.
Students and parents should not to choose universities based on ranking alone. “Choose the university that suits you, so that you will be comfortable living and studying there,” he added.
Students entering medical college in India get in purely on their own merit, assured Assoc Prof Satisha.
“Most colleges are listed in the WHO list and recognised in the United Kingdom and Australia,” he added.
Malaysians studying in India also have a cultural advantage as they are used to the language and food.
Assoc Prof Satisha also advised students to check if the cost of pursuing the medical degree is affordable.
“Look five years ahead and see if you can still afford it.”

So near, yet so far

Star Education:
ALL through secondary school, Dr Michael Sivananda's goal was to become a doctor.
He was one step closer to his goal when he did well in his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination in 1988 and obtained six As.
His next move was to do pre-university studies in India with the hope of continuing his medical studies there.
However, when the fees for medical degrees in India shot up, he was stuck and had to look for a more affordable alternative. He settled for Indonesia – at a university not recognised by the Malaysian Government.
And that was when his problems began.
“Of course I would have preferred to have gone to a recognised institution. However, the moment an institution makes it into the recognised list, the fees shoot up.
“Not everyone can afford to pay these exorbitant fees. That is why we took the risk of going to an unscheduled university, only to realise when we came back that there were many complications involved in the MQE (Medical Qualifying Examination),” he says.
At that time, medical studies were only available in Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia, and there were no private medical universities.
He enrolled in a private university in Medan that was recognised by the World Health Organisation but not the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).
Dr Michael claims that at that time, only government universities were recognised.
He subsequently passed his finals without having to repeat any subjects.
Dr Michael returned from Indonesia in 2001 and sat for the MQE, only to obtain a borderline failing mark in the theory paper. However, he was told that he had to re-sit the entire examination even though he had passed the clinical part.
“All I wanted to do was come back and serve as a doctor. Now, I’m left with no stable job. However, I refuse to resort to doing locum illegally like some others,” he says.
Dr Michael’s wife currently supports him and their children, as he and 29 other medical graduates are involved in a lawsuit against the MMC; they are seeking a declaration to be allowed to practise.

Disillusioned students
As a result of the low passing rate among those who sit for the MQE, medical students currently pursuing their degrees at unrecognised universities are already worrying about their future.
Third-year medical student Shafiz Mustafa and his classmates, who are studying in Ukraine, are upset and confused as to why their university is not recognised by the MMC despite it being accredited in the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“Our university is considered excellent, both in aspects of theory and practical work. We also have very good facilities and lecturers,” he says.
Shafiz adds that many Malaysians at the university do not plan to return and sit for the MQE.
“We are so tired of going through all this that many of us don’t want to come back. For those of us who do, we already know our chances of getting through are small.
“The Government should do something about this issue if they don’t want to lose all their future doctors,” he says.
Asked why he chose to study at an unrecognised university, he says a recruiting agent had assured him that it would soon be recognised but this has so far not come true.
“It was extremely difficult to get into Malaysian public universities, and other scheduled universities as well. As our chances were very slim, we decided to come here,” says Shafiz.
Medical graduates Shanti Mohan and Tan Ai Mei are extremely nervous about sitting for the upcoming examinations after learning about the low passing rate.
Ai Mei, who studied in China, is not confident of doing well in the MQE at all.
“I went to an unscheduled university because my seniors recommended it highly. I didn’t know that it would be so difficult to pass this final hurdle.
“If I had known about all these issues earlier, I might not have gone there,” she says.
Shanti decided to go to a university in Romania as she could not afford the scheduled universities.
“I am quite apprehensive about the sitting for the exam, although everyone who has sat for it from my university has passed.
“Hearing about the high failure rate is quite scary though,” she says.

Names of those interviewed have been changed to protect their privacy.

Many hurdles to practising medicine

Star Education:
SOME foreign graduates who failed the Medical Qualifying Examination (MQE) have accused the local universities which conducted the test – Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia – of being biased against them.
Thirty of them are even suing these public universities, the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) and the Health Ministry. Their case is still pending.
“To offset any aspersions cast on the universities and the government, the Cabinet directed that a one-off unified Conjoint Examination for graduates of foreign universities be held,” explains MMC president and health director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican.

One last chance
The Conjoint Examination was aimed at helping unrecognised medical graduates familiarise themselves with the local system.
“It was also to give another chance to those who had exhausted all their attempts at passing the MQE at the three universities. This shows how caring our government is,'' says Dr Ismail.
Dr Ismail adds that there were no major changes in the Conjoint Examination compared to the MQE. The only difference was that the same examination procedures and questions were applied to all candidates.
All foreign medical graduates were allowed to register for the the one-off test. However, the 30 medical graduates from unscheduled universities who had sued the Government were barred from sitting for it.
The candidates came from unscheduled universities in India (34), Indonesia (15), China (9) and the Philippines (7). Others were from Japan, Bangladesh, the Caribbean, Romania, Armenia, and Russia.
The exam was divided into two parts – theory and clinical. Before the examination, all candidates were coached and trained in nine government hospitals by Health Ministry specialists.
The training was conducted over a period of six months, from June to November last year, and the trainees were paid a monthly renumeration of RM500.
Although over 200 students were eligible, only 71 registered for the examination. A total of 69 candidates sat for the examination. However, only 26 passed the theory paper and of this number, 14 went on to pass the overall examination.
“Even with six months of training, a majority of the graduates were not able to get through.
“The outcome speaks for itself, that the graduates’ lack of theoretical knowledge is the main factor that caused them to fail the examination, not the local universities’ alleged bias.
“The passing rate was about the same as in the MQE too,” says Dr Ismail.
Dr RS, who has been practising medicine for 12 years and has about 20 years of experience in medical education, believes that the six months of training that the graduates went through might not necessarily be of much help.
“There were no proper schedules or guidelines, so it was left to each hospital’s head of department (HOD) to decide how much guidance these graduates needed. And of course, the HODs had enough work of their own.”
Dr RS adds that this meant that many students were basically left to fend for themselves during the training period.

Poor skills
Under the Medical Act 1971, graduates who have obtained bona fide medical degrees (based on Western and not Eastern medicine) but are not among the 343 institutions recognised by the Government, have to sit for the MQE upon their return before they can be registered as doctors.
The MQE is actually the final-year exam for medical undergraduates in UM, UKM and USM. Just like the internal medical undergraduates, foreign grads are given three attempts to pass the exam.
“The candidates must register with the MMC. A balloting process is done to determine which universities they are placed in. The principal aim (of the MQE) is to determine whether these candidates have the necessary knowledge and skills to practice safe medicine. They are assessed on equal terms with final year medical undergraduates,'' says Dr Ismail.
Unfortunately, many don’t make the grade. Generally, the average passing rate for foreign undergraduates from unrecognised medical institutions is about 30% as compared to 98% for local undergraduates.
Coordinator for the MQE at UKM Assoc Prof Dr Seri Suniza Sufian says the university has been running a six-week intensive programme over the past few years for the MQE. There are two intakes for the programme and students sit for the exam in April or October.
“This is actually a refresher course aimed at preparing them for the exam, assuming they have been taught properly in their previous universities.”
Dr Seri Suniza echoes the comments made by Dr Ismail – that the foreign graduates are weak in both clinical skills and theoretical knowledge.
“Some are also poor in language skills as English was not the medium of instruction in their universities,” she says.
USM School of Medical Sciences deputy dean Assoc Prof Dr Abd Rahman Noor admits that the passing rates of the MQE have been fairly low.
”Candidates from unscheduled universities have been coming to our institution to sit for the final MD professional examinations together with our own students since 1994. The average passing rate has been about 32%.
“The candidates who failed were weak both in theory and clinical skills and knowledge. These observations were noted by our internal as well as external (national and international) examiners,” adds Dr Abd Rahman.

Need to be versatile
Dr RS, however, believes that MQE has several weaknesses that need to be addressed.
“When an exam is conducted, there needs to be a proper syllabus for it.
“It is only fair that the students are made aware of what areas they will be tested on because medicine is such a vast field,” he says.
He also suggests that the exam be made more transparent.
“The universities should give the students a general analysis of which areas they are weak in. This will then be a learning experience for both parties,” he says.
Lecturer Dr Kuljit Singh believes that foreign graduates might need more time to adapt to the Malaysian system.
“Some unscheduled universities have good standing. The fact that the graduates are allowed to sit for the exam also shows the university is quite good. It’s just a different system.”
Another reason for the high rate of failure for the MQE could be that some of the graduates allow several years to pass before sitting for the exam, says Dr Kuljit.
“These people have left their books for several years, so it’s very difficult for them to get used to sitting for examinations again,” he says.
Dr Kuljit advises students to ensure that their medical college is recognised at the time of admission.
“Do this on your own, don’t rely on your friends or an agent. Go directly to the MMC and find out. Don’t go into the university hoping that it will be recognised in the future; that may never happen.
“There are also parents who think their children can safely go to an unscheduled university as long as they return and sit for the MQE. It’s not that easy,” he says.
“These graduates have to work at least two or three times harder than the others, because they have to cram in all their knowledge as well as familiarise themselves with the new system. They will really need to put in 100% effort.”
Dr Ismail assures those who failed the Conjoint Examination that it is not the end of the world.
“There is more to life than becoming a doctor. They can pursue other related fields such as pharmaceutical studies, biomedicine, and science and research.
For those who feel that their vocation is really in medicine, Dr Ismail says they should work hard and get good grades so that they are able to pursue their medical dream locally or gain a scholarship to do it overseas.
“Basically, if you have studied at a good university and have what it takes to be a doctor, you should not have a problem passing the MQE," he says.

IMU appoints two top posts

Star: The International Medical University (IMU) has appointed Prof Yasmin Abdul Malik as Dean of Medical Sciences while Prof Datuk Dr A. Jai Mohan assumed the position as Prof of Health Informatics and Paediatrics.
“Both have vast experience and skills in both academic and clinical areas of health care,” said IMU president Tan Sri Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman.
“Prof Yasmin, who was the deputy dean of Academics, Medical Faculty at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) is an experienced academician whose expertise will contribute towards the development of the medical sciences programme in IMU.
Prof Yasmin obtained her MBBS from the Universiti Malaya in 1982, MSc in Medical Microbiology from the University of London in 1986 and was admitted to the Royal College of Pathologists in United Kingdom in 1992.
She was one of the founding members and is now the President of the Malaysian Society for Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy. She became a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in 2000.
Prof Dr Jai Mohan has been involved in teaching for a long time and is well recognised as a teacher in health informatics.
He has been involved in telehealth and the computerisation of health IT programmes in the Health Ministry. His appointment has strengthened our aspiration of including health informatics into our educational programme, “ added Abu Bakar.
Prof Dr Jai Mohan received his medical degree (MBBS) from Universiti Malaya in 1971 and his postgraduate degrees MRCP (UK), FRCP (Lon) and FAMM in 1976, 1995 and 1997 respectively.
He worked in the Health Ministry for 30 years from 1971 to 2001.
He was Head of the Department of Paediatrics in Seremban Hospital for two years, Head of the Department of Paediatrics in Ipoh Hospital for 20 years and completed his government service as Head of Paediatrics at Selayang Hospital when the first “paperless and filmless hospital” was opened.

Rock n roll ... after the operation

NST: A patient hears music, and it makes him wonder if he has been taken to the wrong place.
But, no, there is no mistake. This is the operation theatre at the Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre.
The music is anaesthetist Dr Chua Kok Seng’s idea of calming the nerves of surgeons, nurses and patients before an operation.
"One of our surgeons likes Cyndi Lauper, so I play her songs whenever she works," he said.
"Most of the time I play it safe and stick to music by great composers."
He adjusts the volume according to the intensity of the operation.
"When it becomes too intense, we turn the music low or switch it off.
"At other times, some surgeons even sing along and talk about the singers.
"It makes the environment less stressful."
Besides the preferences of the surgical team, Dr Chua also finds out whether the patients enjoy the music selected.
"This usually happens when a patient is given local anaesthesia.
"Some are allowed to bring CDs or cassettes."
Among the stars on his "operation theatre play list" are Vanessa Mae, Bond, Maksim and Beethoven.
Dr Chua said many patients were surprised.
"The atmosphere in the room is cold and frightening for some," Dr Chua, who deals mainly with obstetrics and orthopaedic surgeries.
"If patients hear music they like, instead of metal tools clanking against each other, there is a bigger chance they will stay calm."

Consultant neurosurgeon Dr Muruga Kumar, who attends the Subang Jaya Medical Centre and Gleneagles Intan, also loves to play music in the operation theatre.
He has been doing this since his days as a trainee with the Health Ministry.
"I was surprised that surgeons in Britain whom I worked with during my postgraduate days were comfortable with music in the operation theatre."
Dr Kumar said there was a misconception that music disturbed the concentration and focus of the surgeon.
"Different surgeons have different means of relaxation. To me, music helps me stay calm and more focused.
"I prefer absolute silence when I am required to make those life-threatening decisions.
"Once the last bits of the tumour are out or the aneurysm is clipped, I let down my hair and tell the team we are closing up for the day.
"That’s when we play rock music."

Help sought to kick start HIV+ farm

Star: PETALING JAYA: Social worker William Ooi Chan is brimming with income-generating ideas for HIV+ people to be self-sufficient, but lack of funds has put a dampener on his well-laid plans.
“One of my church members has agreed to let us use his land in Raub, Pahang, to set up a rehabilitation centre and farm for the HIV+. The farm will allow HIV+ residents to be self-sufficient.
“Many HIV+ people are rejected by their family and community but the centre will give them the opportunity to be self-sufficient and lead meaningful lives,” said Ooi, 55, who has dedicated his life to helping the HIV+ since he recovered from a heart bypass surgery four years ago.
The former graphic designer had vowed to dedicate his life to helping others while recuperating from the surgery. An NGO offering support service to the HIV+ was the first to offer Ooi a job in community work.
He has done outreach work among sex workers, cared for HIV+ patients, helped to increase HIV/AIDS awareness and created job opportunities for the HIV+ by teaching them desktop publishing.
Ooi set up his own organisation called Prihatin Riben Merah last year, and has been working on the farm project in Raub where he has learnt about farming in the past year and plans to plant fruit trees such as papaya.
The plan for the farmhouse is also ready, and it would house 13 HIV+ persons initially.
Ford Motors gave Ooi a RM10,000 grant for his project. Ooi, however, still needs more funds as RM50,000 is required to get his centre and farm off the ground.
Ooi is hoping that the public would support his project by sponsoring 600 papaya trees in the Raub farm for RM100 each.
He also needs containers to be converted into living quarters while the house is being built.
Cheques should be addressed to Prihatin Riben Merah, and mailed to 18, Jalan Anggerik 1G, Bandar Bukit Beruntung, 48300 Rawang, Selangor.

Malaria no cause for worry

Star: KULIM: Housewife Fatiham Othman’s death due to malaria in Air Putih near here was an isolated case and should not be a cause for worry, according to health authorities.
State Health, Social Unity and Welfare Committee chairman V. Saravanan said the situation was well under control.
“The Health Department has been monitoring the situation and has collected blood samples from the residents there for analysis,” he said.
Last Thursday Fatiham, 47, died at the Kulim Hospital four days after being treated for malaria.
Saravanan said that at least seven of the residents there had contracted the disease in the middle of last year but no cases of fatality had been reported then.
Saravanan, who is also Bukit Slambau assemblyman, said the disease could have come from illegal immigrants.
“I hope the Immigration Department will take immediate measures to track down illegal immigrants who work in rubber estates or chicken farms,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kampung Air Putih Security and Development Committee chairman Che Omar Ibrahim said the presence of illegal immigrants in the area was a cause for concern.
“This problem must be solved promptly,” he said.
He said these illegal immigrants usually shared quarters or stayed in barns in secluded areas or at privately owned farms.

Sabah bans waxed duck for second year

Star: KOTA KINABALU: There will be no waxed duck on the dinner table in Sabah this Chinese New Year due to the continuing ban on the import of the delicacy from China.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin said the state's ban on waxed duck, imposed early last year, was continued for the second year because new bird flu cases were still being reported in China.
“This is a preventive measure. We are not importing any type of birds from countries affected by the avian flu outbreak,” he said after visiting supermarkets and shops to check on the supply of Chinese New Year delicacies.
Yahya, the state Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister, said the ban did not cover canned duck meat as there was no order from the relevant authorities.
On the mandarin orange price increase, he said it was minimal – only RM1 to RM2 per box – and that the increase was due to poor orange harvest in China this year.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

80% failures in medical exam

Star: PETALING JAYA: Medical graduates from unrecognised foreign universities fared even worse in a special qualifying exam with a passing rate of only 20%, compared with 30% in the regular Medical Qualifying Examination (MQE).
This was despite enrolling for a six-month training programme under which they were paid RM500 a month and attached to nine government hospitals.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican attributed their poor performance in the one-off examination to their poor theoretical knowledge.
“The outcome speaks for itself – that the graduates’ lack of theoretical knowledge is the main factor that caused them to fail the MQE,’’ said Dr Ismail, who is also Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) president. Local students' passing rate is much higher at 98% for the same exam.
Although more than 200 medical graduates were eligible, only 69 candidates sat for the examination. A total of 14 candidates, or 20.3%, passed the examination.
Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia have been running the MQE since 1994 for local and foreign medical students.
Dr Ismail said MMC was thinking of introducing a standard examination for all overseas-trained medical graduates. However, this would require amendments to the Medical Act.
Instead of going by the current list comprising 343 scheduled universities – some of which no longer exist – all returning medical graduates should sit for a common qualifying medical exam, he said.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said students were regularly warned by the MMC and the MMA not to seek admission into unrecognised colleges.

# Read the full report in StarEducation Sunday

Three canned products from China unsafe for consumption

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has released the names of three brands of canned products from China, which contain malachite green (MG) above the “administrative level” of two parts per billion (ppb).
Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said the brands involved were Gulong, Lantern and Pearl River Bridge.
He said however that not all consignments of these brands had MG above the 2ppb level. The ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Department had set 2ppb as the “administrative level” – an extremely low quantity and safe for consumption.
“Those that had MG above that level were rejected and confiscated,” he said yesterday.
“It is now for the public to use their discretion whether or not to buy these brands,” he said.
Brands that tested for MG below the administrative level are Ali Shan, Yupin, Double Flower, Eagle Coin, Pearl River Bridge, New Sun, Ganzhu and Latern.
Pearl River Bridge, Eagle Coin and Gulong also have consignments that have results of the MG levels pending.
Malachite green is not listed as a scheduled substance under the Food Act 1983 and Food Regulations 1985, and thus is a prohibited substance in food.
Malachite green is traditionally used in the aquaculture industry to treat fungus and parasites in fishes as it is cheap, easily available and effective, Its use is restricted to ornamental fishes only.
Dr Chua said the Chinese Embassy’s trade counsellor met with his officers and him on Thursday to convey his satisfaction with the steps taken by the ministry on this matter.
“The embassy has also advised its exporters to co-operate with us, and ensure that the administrative level established by us is observed,” he said.

On the Medical Assistance Fund, Dr Chua refuted claims that bureaucracy had caused the death of Intan Syafiqah Mohd Fauzi, a three-year-old child diagnosed with chronic liver failure.
Intan Syafiqah’s mother Norhayati Omar, 29, told a local Malay daily on Thursday that her child had waited two years to obtain funds for an operation, but failed to receive any money because of bureaucracy.
Dr Chua said the deceased was not eligible for the fund as her parents had opted for surgery in a private hospital, and funds were only given to patients who underwent surgery at a government hospital.
He said liver transplant surgery was available at Selayang Hospital and the expertise there was the best in the region.
A professor from Australia heads the unit and his standards are comparable with that of doctors from the world’s best hospitals offering liver transplants.

Friday, January 20, 2006

No Bureaucracy In Medical Aid Fund, Says Dr Chua

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 20 (Bernama) -- Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek Friday dismissed a claim that bureaucracy in the Medical Aid Fund operations has rendered channelling of aid to needy patients difficult.
The previous rules have been scrapped and replaced with simpler procedures, he said.
"I can give an assurance there is no bureaucracy," he told reporters when asked on a report that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wanted Dr Chua's ministry to get rid of bureaucracy in the fund's operations in the interests of the needy.
Dr Chua said completed application forms would be processed in two weeks and among aspects to be assessed were the need and justification.
"Among our problems are incomplete application forms and no recommendation from doctors. Some send letters requesting for the aid and some paid for the treatment first before applying. How can?" he asked.
Dr Chua said previously his approval was needed before an aid was disbursed but the power had since been delegated to the officers.
The condition that applicants' monthly income must be below RM600 and the requirement to get recommendation from government doctors had also been scrapped.
"Now, an applicant only needs to fill a personal information form and attaches his salary slip, Employees Provident Fund statement and recommendation from the Social Welfare Department," he said.
The applicant must also get a recommendation from a registered and qualified doctor, he said.The issue arose after a mother from Butterworth said she faced bureaucracy problems when applying for aid from the fund to treat her three-year-old daughter Intan Syafiqah Mohamad Fauzi who suffered a chronic liver ailment.
Dr Chua said the fund could only be used for treatment and surgery at government hospitals.
In Intan Syafiqah's case, he said, she could have received treatment and underwent surgery at the Selayang Hospital which had the best specialists in the region and an outstanding record.
"Unfortunately, her parents didn't want to and we're blamed for bureaucracy.
"In terms of eligibility, she was not eligible because they sought aid for a surgery in a private hospital," he said.
Intan Syafiqah died on Oct 25 last year before the surgery.
Dr Chua said the ministry had tabled a note in the Cabinet, saying that the girl died not because of bureaucracy. "We will deliver the latest information in the coming Cabinet meeting," he said.
He also said of the RM100 million grant promised by the government for the fund, the ministry had received RM25 million.

Law on motorcycle licence to change

NST: The proposed increase in the minimum age of motorcycle licence applicants from 16 to 17 years will be a reality soon.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said an amendment to the Road Transport Act 1987 to this effect would be tabled at the next Parliament session.
He said the move was part of efforts to reduce the number of casualties among motorcyclists in road accidents.
"Motorcyclists are more at risk than other road users and therefore need to be more mature," Chan, who is also MCA deputy president, said after opening SRJK(C) Taman Tas here today.
Motorcyclists make up over half the total motorist population and contribute more than 70 per cent of fatal casualties in traffic crashes.
Chan said the Road Transport Department (RTD) had recently been instructed to strictly enforce the law which compels motorcyclists to wear approved helmets.
He said the ministry’s study on causes of motorcycle fatalities indicated that almost 80 per cent were due to severe head injuries.
"We don’t want to see any more modified and fancy helmets. Wearing a helmet is not meant to make motorcyclists look great but to make safer for them."
Chan also advised parents to prohibit their underage children from riding motorcycles.
"I can’t comprehend why some parents allow their children to ride a motorcycle or drive a car without a licence.
"They are not only careless with their children’s lives but also the lives of others."

Pre-nuptial HIV screening compulsory in Perak, too

Star: IPOH: Perak has joined the ranks of Johor, Perlis and Kelantan in making it compulsory for Muslims who intend to get married to undergo HIV/AIDS screening.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Tajol Rosli Ghazali said the compulsory testing was not a discriminatory programme but a way to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
“Most worrying is that the disease is spreading through sex,” he said here yesterday after launching the marriage registration smart card and health screening programme.
Tajol Rosli said the spread of HIV/AIDS through sex accounted for 26.8% of the total number of cases in 2004, compared with 11.2% in 1994.
Records, he added, showed that in 2004, 13 expectant mothers were found to be HIV-positive.
If a partner tested positive for HIV, marriage was not encouraged, he said.
“But if they still want to do so, they will have to undergo counselling,” he added.
Non-Muslims, he said, were also encouraged to undergo screening and could go to the state Health Department for it.
On the marriage registration smart card, called N-Kad, Tajol Rosli said it was not only to identify married couples but also to curb the production of fake marriage certificates by irresponsible parties.
The card costs RM20 each.

Improving Healthcare Delivery A Focus Under Ninth Plan

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 19 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will focus on disease prevention and enhancement of the healthcare delivery system under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010), Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Thursday.
He said the main challenge in achieving that target was the need to change the attitude of the ministry's staff to a more positive one.
"In realising this objective, compartmentalised thinking will have to be discarded," he said in his speech at the awarding of the MS ISO 9001:2000 certification to Putrajaya Hospital, here.
The text of his speech was read out by the ministry's secretary-general, Datuk Dr Mohamed Nasir Mohd Ashraf.
Dr Chua said the ministry also needed various resources, infrastructure, systems and technology of quality.
He said retention of a static frame of mind would only stifle the efforts, vision and mission of the ministry to provide the best service possible to its clients.
Dr Chua said he wanted staff of the ministry to be prepared to face not only an increase in the number of clients but also their greater demands and aspirations.
"The prerequisite to achieving this objective is a paradigm shift from the old system of administration to a more proactive, responsive-to-change, flexible and client-oriented administration," he said.
On the MS ISO 9001:2000 awarded to the Putrajaya Hospital, he said he hoped that it would be a catalyst for the hospital to enhance the quality of the healthcare delivery service in accordance with the needs of the people.
The hospital is the third institution under the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory Health Department to receive the certification, after the Dental Division and the Putrajaya Health Office.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oyster Plus Traditional Medicine From China Banned

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 (Bernama) -- The Drug Control Authority (DCA) in the Health Ministry has cancelled the registration of "Oyster Plus", a traditional medical product imported from China, after it was found to contain tadalafil, a prescribed drug to treat men with erectile dysfunction.
A statement by DCA Wednesday said tadalafil could be harmful to health, especially to patients with heart conditions or diabetes.
It said the drug could also interact with other medicines resulting in serious adverse effects such as the lowering of blood pressure if used together with some antihypertensive drugs.
The Chinese drug authority had been informed about the detection of tadalafil in Oyster Plus, it added.
The product is imported by Global Like Sdn Bhd and distributed by Smart Naco Sdn Bhd. The statement said people possessing the product must immediately stop selling, distributing or using it, and should surrender it to the Pharmacy Enforcement Branch in the respective state.
Sellers of the product can be charged under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations 1984.
Individual offenders are liable to a fine up to RM25,000 or three years jail or both for the first offence and RM50,000 fine or five years jail for the second and subsequent offences.
A company found guilty can be fined up to RM50,000 for the first offence and RM100,000 for the second and subsequent offences.

Sex 'Boosters' For Men: More products expected to be banned

Malay Mail :Men’s health products are being monitored by the Health Ministry to ensure only those safe for consumption are sold in the market.
The authorities have their system of identifying whether these products contain drugs like tadalafil, sildenafil and steroids.
With this stringent monitoring, “more” products are expected to be banned.
Traditional or herbal products are not allowed to have a combination of western medication, said Pharmacy Services Department director Datuk Che Mohd Zin Che Awang.
“When they start adding other ingredients, they (manufacturer) ‘spoil’ the traditional products and will be charged with selling poison items. So there will be more (being banned),” said Che Mohd Zin yesterday.He said traditional products are natural supplements and can only contain minerals but no chemicals.
It was reported last Thursday that when Orgacare Unik Plus-1 was introduced, it only contained Tongkat Ali to help treat impotence, and it was registered under the Drug Control Authority in 2000. However, over the years, some other ingredients were added, making it an unregistered product.
"Using Tongkat Ali was okay. But after it was registered, different ingredients, listed as scheduled poisons, were added, making it harmful," Che Mohd Zin was quoted as saying then.
He also said such products will come under the scrutiny of the Drug Control Authority (DCA) if they were found to be costly and popular among the public.
“Based on these two factors, we pick a product at random. Now we are taking samples of several products to see if they test positive for such chemicals,” said Che Mohd Zin.

‘Oyster Plus’ sold at exorbitant price
‘Oyster Plus’, another traditional medicine used for treating erectile dysfunction (ED) but banned by the Health Ministry, was sold at an exorbitant price in the market.
Pharmacy Services Department director Datuk Che Mohd Zin Che Awang said the product was distributed by direct sales, and priced at RM156 a box.
Upon consumption, its effect was said to be immediate.
“So when a member of the public alerted us after he was suspicious of its effectiveness, a test was done. It was found to contain the drug tadalafil.
“Usually natural supplements take time, at least a week longer to see its effectiveness and they are not expensive either.”
Those suffering from ED are advised to consume two Oyster Plus capsules at a time either once or twice a week.
In comparison with Tongkat Ali, a natural supplement used for the same purpose, Che Mohd Zin said it was “quite reasonably” priced between RM20 and RM50 for either (powder or extract form).
“So be careful with products that are expensive and claim to give immediate effect,” he advised.
He said the department officers are checking with the locally registered product owner based in Cheras and his stockists in various parts of the country to have the products recalled.
“We will also remove the product from the owners’ import list,” said Che Mohd Zin yesterday.
It was reported yesterday that Oyster Plus, another traditional medicine, had been banned because it contains the drug tadalafil, which is used for treating erectile dysfunction.
Hence, the government wants the item (Oyster Plus) to be taken off the shelves immediately. Just last week the Government banned “Orgacare Unik Plus 1” after it was found to contain tadalafil.
Tadalafil, better known as 'Cialis', should not be used as an ingredient in traditional medicines, as uncontrolled consumption could be hazardous to health.
'Cialis' is an anti-erectile dysfunction drug that is available by prescription. “Sildenafil' and 'tadalafil' are medicines which can only be prescribed by doctors for men diagnosed with 'erectile dysfunction'.
The drugs could interact with other medicines and result in the lowering of blood pressure, particularly if used together with anti-hypertensive medicines.

New anti-diabetic product to boost INS

Business Times:HEALTH supplements manufacturer INS Bioscience Bhd is confident of recording a double-digit growth in sales this year, helped by its new anti-diabetic product extracted from bitter gourd.
The company, which made a RM8 million net profit last year, will market the new product, Insupro Forte, to South-East Asian markets and countries like Chna, India, Japan, South Korea and South Africa soon.
"We have built up an extensive marketing team to penetrate these potential markets," said INS executive chairman Datuk Abdul Majid Ahmad Khan.
It is confident the product will be well-accepted based on the overwhelming response received during the trial period conducted in Malaysia and clinical tests done in 20 hospitals throughout China.
"Insupro is capable of contributing substantially to our annual revenue beginning this current financial year," he told reporters after the handover ceremony of the research findings on Momordica Charantia or bitter gourd, done by Universiti Malaya, to the company in Puchong, Selangor, yesterday.
The event was witnessed by Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha.
Also present was INS chief executive Datuk David Yeat and Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya Associate Professor Dr Mustafa Ali Mohd.
Insupro Forte is a herbal oral anti-diabetic product containing bitter gourd's active ingredients namely Momordicoside and Charantin.
Research showed that bitter gourd has the effect of lowering the blood glucose level, Abdul Majid said.
Studies have also concluded that the effect of Insupro Forte on the blood glucose lowering activities was significant and was comparable to the standard drug, glibenclamide which is commonly used for diabetes treatment.
"Statistics show that about 3.6 million people around the world suffer from diabetes. The figures is expected to rise drastically to 336 million by 2030," he said.